9/11 Workers: Bush Health Upgrade Plan Inadequate

9/11 Workers: Bush Health Upgrade Plan Inadequate

Created: Wednesday, 31 Jan 2007, 12:11 PM EST
Associated Press Writer

NEW YORK -- Sick 9/11 workers and residents gathered near ground zero before President Bush's speech on Wednesday to criticize as inadequate his proposal to spend an additional $25 million to fund a health care program.

About a dozen people rallied near the World Trade Center site about an hour before Bush delivered the economic speech at nearby Federal Hall.

Ceasar Borja Jr., who lost his father, a ground zero worker, last week was originally scheduled to attend the rally. But instead, he was preparing for a meeting with the president.

White House spokesman Tony Snow said Bush planned to meet privately after his speech with Borja; his mother, Eva; brother, Evan; and sister, Nhia.

"First responders who need treatment will get the treatment they need," Snow said earlier Wednesday. "Many are already covered by insurance programs, many through their union; but if there are gaps in that, we're going to do it."

Rally participant Mariama James, who lives four blocks from ground zero and has three children with health problems she attributes to Sept. 11, said she spends $480 a month in copays for their allergy, sinusitis and asthma medicines.

"You have committed hundreds of millions of dollars to protect us from those who would do us harm," James said of Bush. "We ask that you protect us from those who did us harm. The $25 million is not enough even for the needs of the workers."

The Bush administration next week will propose the additional funding of the Sept. 11-related health care program at Mount Sinai Medical Center and a related effort for New York firefighters....